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Speech: UK is Committed to Promoting Democracy and Defending Democratic Freedoms

At the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference 2023, Ambassador Neil Holland says that inclusive, democratic and accountable institutions are the key building blocks for secure and prosperous states

Neil Holland
Neil Holland

Thank you Madam Moderator, the UK is committed to promoting democracy and defending democratic freedoms.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, it is important that we redouble our efforts to build inclusive democratic and accountable institutions, where all citizens can participate. These are the key building blocks for secure and prosperous states.

Democratic and open societies cannot flourish without credible and inclusive elections.

Elections allow citizens to choose how they are governed, and by whom, and to hold those in public office to account. So let me take this opportunity to reiterate the UK’s strong support for ODIHR and its vital work in observing elections across the OSCE space.

Technological progress provides an opportunity to strengthen democratic institutions, promote accountable governance and enhance individuals’ human rights. Yet open societies and democratic freedoms are coming under growing pressure online through the propagation of hateful narratives and disinformation and through the restriction of the online democratic space.

So the UK is focused on taking advantage of the opportunities and mitigating the risks:

  • We are working with international partners, civil society and the tech sector to ensure technology can strengthen democratic governance, human rights and democracy. This year the UK is the country chair of the Freedom Online Coalition Task Force on Internet shutdowns, alongside civil society partners Access Now and the Global Network Initiative. Building on our 2021 G7 presidency, we aim to reduce the likelihood of interruptions particularly as we approach a bumper election year in 2024.

  • In March, the UK launched its first International Women and Girls Strategy. We are committed to standing up for women and girls, including through the Global Partnership for Action on Online Gender-based Abuse and Harassment. This addresses online violence against women and girls in public life. The UK Government has also introduced an Online Safety Bill which should make the UK the safest place for girls to be online.

  • The UK also supports the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in their work to make countries’ political systems fairer, more inclusive, and more accountable of people with disabilities.

  • Earlier this year, my Prime Minister announced the launch of a new Centre of Expertise on Democratic Governance. The Centre will facilitate the sharing of good practice and of concrete examples of how States can strengthen their democratic institutions and make political systems inclusive and accountable.

Madam Moderator, the UK calls on all OSCE participating States to fully support ODIHR and to work together to build accountable, effective and inclusive democratic institutions. That way we can ensure that all citizens can have a say in the decisions affecting their lives.

Thank you, Mr Chair.

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